Same As It Ever Was

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | November 23, 2010

Every day, my local newspaper—you remember newspapers, don’t you?—publishes a photo from its archives; one of those “a look back” sort ofthings. Recently, there was a 1950s photo taken on Black Friday, the big selling day after Thanksgiving here in the U.S. What struck me about the photo was that, aside from a fedora or two, the shot could easily have been taken in 2010. Right below a crowded escalator were a few banged up glass counters and behind them, one or two harried sales clerks.

Fifty years have elapsed, but the retail industry in general—and department stores in particular—are still trying to move products in the same fashion that worked during the Eisenhower Administration. But the lack of innovation isn’t only a problem at retail, it’s a problem that affects nearly every segment of our industry.

While technological advances in areas such as communications have soared, the household and personal products industry has often failed to roll out meaningful new products and, along the way, make a meaningful connection with the changing consumer. Those connections are important at a time when consumers are using shopping lists, buying only what they need and waiting for items to go on sale. In this age of the new consumer, the only way to get her to loosen those purse strings is to offer her something truly new.

The good news for the beauty industry in 2010 is that analysts are expecting holiday sales to rise about 3-4%. That’s better than earlier forecasts and another sign that the recovery is beginning to pick up steam.

In fact, this edition of Happi is peppered with clues that the economy is gaining traction. For example, see p. 14 to learn more about the health of the prestige color cosmetics industry in the U.S. Meanwhile, multinational household cleaner manufacturers will be happy to hear that after a couple of years of gains, it looks like interest in private label products is beginning to wane (p. 89). In contrast, there’s been a lot of activity in skin care actives (p. 55). Finally, while the world waits for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue the Final Sunscreen Monograph, marketers continue to roll out products that boast higher and higher SPF protection. Turn to p. 48 to read a comprehensive evaluation of these high SPF products.

Good luck in the new year.


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